A slight spoiler for Alien: Resurrection lies ahead
Opinions tend to veer towards the ‘not positive’ side when it comes to Alien: Resurrection. 1997’s fourth film in the saga was the one, of course, that recloned Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley, brought in acclaimed director Jean-Pierre Jenuet, and never really gelled. There’s some terrific underwater work at one stage, but the film struggled to win over audiences, and in fact when talk surfaced about Neill Blomkamp’s now abandoned Alien 5 project, there was a strong suggestion that the entire story would ignored.
But there are moments to the film, and one of the most fondly remembered is the moment when NuRipley throws a basketball from distance over her head, and makes the shot.
The story that does the rounds is that Weaver made the shot on the second take. But uncovering a journal she wrote that was published in Premiere magazine back in December 1997, and that may not quite be the case. Furthermore, the shot that made it to the film was nearly kyboshed by the intervention of Ron Perlman, too.
Weaver, then, noted that on February 13, 1997, she’d already been practicing for two weeks on the basketball shot. The original plan for it, incidentally, had been to demonstrate Ripley’s new strength and speed by “beating the shit out of everyone.” But Weaver was more interested to zero in on the basketball moment, “to make an impossible basket without any effort.”
She thus worked with then-basketball star Nigel Miguel to train for the show. On day one of practice, after around ten attempts, she made the shot. “By the time we are ready to shoot,” she wrote, “my average on the shot is one basket for every six tries.”
And so it came to the moment to shoot the scene. Ron Perlman was one of her co-stars in the movie, and Weaver clearly loved filming the scene in question with him there. “Take after take, I dibble, I pass…he loves it,” she recalled.
However, come the moment, and Jean-Pierre Jeunet wasn’t too happy with how things were shaping up. He wanted the shot to be made from much further away than originally planned. When Nigel Miguel questioned whether she could do the shot, noting that the training had been for a closer basket, Jeunet shrugged his shoulders. The visual effects team could trick the shot, he said. The visual effects guru on set was, fact facts, Pitof, who would go on to make his directorial debut with the Catwoman movie, starring Halle Berry.
But Weaver wanted to go for it.
Take one: she missed.
Take two: she missed.
Pitof, at this stage, suggested that it’s better if Weaver missed the shot, sending the ball back flat. That way, it’d be easier to match the shot to the necessary visual effects. It was Miguel who was insistent that it’d look fake if they did that. And Weaver wanted to keep going.
A few more practices later, Weaver was ready. She walked to the center of the court, tossed the ball behind her, and the crew erupted. She made the shot, and everyone on set was cheering.
Everyone, except Ron Perlman.
“It’s no good”, he yelled out, mortified. “I broke up after the ball went in.”
The cheering stopped. Instead, a rush to the playback monitors ensued, as all concerned checked to see if Perlman was right.
He was. “Two beats after the balls goes in,” Weaver wrote, “Ron Perlman flashes a huge smile and yells ‘oh fuck’ right into the camera.” Weaver made the shot, but a grin and a fuck from Ron Perlman also made it into the frame. It took Connie Hall, camera operator, to examine the frame and declare it still usable. The two beats that Perlman left before his exclamation could be edited around.
It was left to Jeunet to sound the final note of caution. “The ball left the frame,” he mourned. “So everyone will think we tricked it, even though we didn’t.”
And then it was left to Weaver to quickly solve that one. “They won’t think we tricked it, because…. Because I’ll tell them we didn’t.”
“You can’t tell everyone,” Jenuet replied.
“I can try,” Weaver said. And thus, across the promotions for the film, that was one of the key messages that came out. Yes, Weaver made the shot. Yes, she did it in a couple of tries. And yes, the story will hang around long enough for a website to write about it, 20 years later…